Fifty three years ago June 30, 1966. I entered the gates of the U. S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island South Carolina. I don’t have to tell you that Parris Island has a reputation for being tough–Full Metal Jacket was the closest Hollywood go to the rea thing–it was possibly the most eye-opening experience of my young life (I was eighteen). Truthfully Marine boot camp is mentally tougher than physically–however, I don’t recommend you try it in 1966 during the early stages of the Vietnam War with the first two initials of V. C.
All kidding aside, it was the beginning of what I still believe were the best six years of my life . . . at least six years when I thought I was making a difference. These past ten years I’ve become active in Veteran’s issues and do what I can to show all of our veterans that they are appreciated (probably a reaction to the way we Vietnam vets were treated in the sixties and early seventies). This past week I hosted (as the Commandant of my Marine Corps League Detachment) and appreciation ceremony for the World War II vets at the Veteran Home in Caribou.
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. It’s a day when we all should pause to think (and be thankful to) those who made the ultimate sacrifice–we living vets have our day in November. In honor of those vets I always read a poem on Memorial Day . . . here’s that poem:
JUST A COMMON SOLDIER (A VETERAN DIED TODAY)
By A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
and he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.
Of the war he had fought in and the deeds that he had done.
In his exploits with his buddies they were heroes, everyone.
And ‘tho sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
all his buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer, for ol’ Bob has passed away,
and the world’s a little poorer for a veteran died today.
No, he won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary, very quiet sort of life. He held a job and
raised a family, quietly going on his way; and the world
won’t note his passing, ‘tho a veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
while thousands note their passing and proclaim they were
great. Papers tell their life stories, from the time they
were young, but the passing of a veteran goes unnoticed and
unsung. Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
some jerk who breaks his promise and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow, who in times of war and strife, goes
off to serve his country and offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary veteran, who has offered up his all,
is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension, small.
It’s so easy to forget them, for it is so long ago, that our Bobs
and Jims and Johnnys went to battle, but we know.
It was not the politicians and their compromises and ploys,
who won for us the freedom that our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
would you really want some cop-out, with his ever-waffling stand?
Or, would you want a veteran, who has sworn to defend his home,
his kin and country, and would fight until the end?
He was just a common veteran and his ranks are growing thin,
but his presence should remind us we may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the military’s part
is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
then at least let’s give him homage, at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in the paper that might say
Our country is in mourning, for a veteran died today.